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Can you suggest some good movies which involve math, probabilities etc? One example is 21. I would also be interested in movies that involve algorithms (e.g. text decryption). In general "geeky" movies with famous scientific theories but no science fiction or documentaries. Thanks in advance!

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    $\begingroup$ nice idea for a collection ! @mods: Beside cw maybe renaming to "movies every statistician should have seen" or something like that ? $\endgroup$ – steffen May 7 '11 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ @steffen Thx. Better to flag the question for mods attention in the future (we aren't notified with @mods). $\endgroup$ – chl May 7 '11 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, I found this page, which might add some movies to the collection: world.std.com/~reinhold/mathmovies.html $\endgroup$ – Thea May 7 '11 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing that will inspire anybody to take up mathematics. Stick to books. $\endgroup$ – Emre May 7 '11 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Emre Maybe. But nevertheless it is entertaining for those who already deal with math (even more if the movie is presenting things wrong or with exaggeration). $\endgroup$ – steffen May 7 '11 at 18:38

20 Answers 20

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Pi

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  • $\begingroup$ An absorbing story and one I'd recommend, but it referred to math rather than truly involding math. I'd say the same thing about the tv show Numb3rs. $\endgroup$ – rolando2 May 7 '11 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @rolando2 I eagerly await the day when a movie can be made about some foundational mathematician or field of mathematics which is both interesting to the public and adequately involves math. I don't think a 2 hour epic soliloquy of Galois on the night before his fatal duel would stand up to Iron Man IV, but who knows? This is why the only movies about mathematicians are about insane mathematicians. $\endgroup$ – AdamO Nov 12 '13 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe "life of Alexander Grothendieck" could be made into a blockbuster movie? $\endgroup$ – kjetil b halvorsen May 25 '14 at 11:13
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'A Beautiful Mind' naturally has a bit of game theory in it.

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  • $\begingroup$ one can also use this to generate discussion on spurious correlation $\endgroup$ – KennyPeanuts May 7 '11 at 16:56
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Not a movie, but a TV series: Numb3rs

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Proof was pretty good.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this has been the most "authentic" depiction of mathematicians I've seen in a movie that's very good and entertaining. $\endgroup$ – Chan-Ho Suh Nov 8 '13 at 4:00
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MONEYBALL! It's a movie where the statisticians win!

This is probably the most inspiring major motion picture about the power of quantitative methods. (if only because the plot is a little formulaic). And it shows quantitative methods (sabrmetrics) eventually coming to dominate over the backward and untested techniques of the dinosaurs of baseball.

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The mathematical movie database has some great suggestions with over 800 movies (though most tenuously linked to maths) already listed. In the navy, from 1941, is probably my favourite.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cooooooooooooooooooool! $\endgroup$ – Waldir Leoncio Jun 6 '14 at 13:52
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The Cube

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  • $\begingroup$ good one. It has a not so good sequel called Hypercube. $\endgroup$ – mpiktas May 16 '11 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @mpiktas, I never did see Hypercube, and it does not sound like I should :-) I saw The Cube some ten years ago and found it pretty entertaining. $\endgroup$ – NRH May 16 '11 at 16:47
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21 - based on the book Bringing Down the House (MIT Blackjack team)

Near the beginning they discuss the Monty Hall Problem. However after that there isn't much actual math/probability.

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  • $\begingroup$ The story is somewhat based on the real lives of some very notable mathematicians, I believe Stone and Kalman, who developed these gaming strategies. $\endgroup$ – AdamO Nov 8 '13 at 4:06
  • $\begingroup$ too bad the movie is terrible... there was a tv documentary based on the same thing that was much better. $\endgroup$ – Michael Bishop Nov 8 '13 at 16:07
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I have not seen this yet, but it seems somewhat geeky: Fermat's Room

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not particularly geeky - it is a Spanish thriller (and like all thrillers has some implausible plot lines to move the story along and resolve it at the end) with a few logic puzzles using numbers. If you want to solve the puzzles yourself, a pause button might be useful. $\endgroup$ – Henry May 7 '11 at 22:30
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There are several movie versions of Flatland. And there's The Great $\pi$/e Debate.

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Early in The Social Network begins with a one night hackathon where Mark Zuckerberg uses the Elo rating system algorithm to

... create a website that rates the attractiveness of female students when compared to each other. ... in a few hours, using an algorithm for ranking chess players supplied by his best friend, Eduardo Saverin, he creates a website called "FaceMash," where students can choose which of two girls presented at a time is more attractive.

However, much of the rest of the movie is devoted to episodes of hacking, corporate politics, lawsuits, escapades, Zuckerberg's interpersonal problems, etc. But, I found it quite fascinating, overall. A great geek movie.

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Good Will Hunting is also a classic. Discrete mathematics at MIT.

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  • $\begingroup$ Their depiction of maths is horrid. $\endgroup$ – abaumann May 25 '14 at 10:01
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The documentary about Andrew Wiles proof of Fermat's Last Theorem is fantastic: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/proof/

Available on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FnXgprKgSE

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BBC Horizon - The Bible Code. It shows, that whatever codes people found in Bible, so far they didn't prove to be statistically significant.

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Rounders. A very watchable drama about poker players.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128442/

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There is a published a documentary about Srinivasa Ramanujan whose life, as we know, is tremendously interesting. However, the film is Indian and I haven't actually seen it. I recall an Indian math historian speaking about this film at our university colloquium several years ago. He boasted, "Ben Kingsley was interested in depicting Ramanujan but was turned down for the role because he was only half Indian". As a mixed race individual, I felt a mixture of anger and pity. The latter because they basically turned down the opportunity to make a movie that would attract anyone's attention.

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Sofia Kovalevskaya - biopic about Russian female mathematician. You don't have too many movies about these folks. One of the recent ones is The Imitation Game about Alan Turing, a British mathematician and computer scientist (allegedly) murdered by his government.

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12 angry men (1957, with Henry Fonda): a great film about a decision procedure and the strength of evidences

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    $\begingroup$ A great movie, but not particularly centered on maths. $\endgroup$ – abaumann Nov 10 '13 at 10:20
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[travelling salesman] (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1801123/) is a good one

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  • $\begingroup$ From the trivia entry for that link imdb.com/title/tt1801123/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv "No consultant in any field related to the storyline has been listed, and many of the statements regarding mathematics are incorrect. This film is about morality, it is not intended to be a true depiction of mathematics or computer science." $\endgroup$ – Mark L. Stone Jul 28 '16 at 14:52

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